Southwest Airlines

Southwest CEO Releases Statement on Airline Troubles: ‘Truly Sorry'

The airline is operating on a reduced flight schedule that is due in part to the winter weather conditions across the country

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In a video statement released Tuesday, Southwest CEO Robert Jordan apologized for the airline's struggle to operate during the busy holiday travel week amid winter weather woes, adding there is a need to "double down" on "existing plans to upgrade systems."

"We have some real work to do in making this right," Jordan, who became CEO in February, said. "For now, I want you to know that we're committed to that."

"Please also hear that I'm truly sorry," Jordan added.

A day after most U.S. airlines had recovered from the storm, Dallas-based Southwest called off about 2,600 more flights on the East Coast by midafternoon. Those flights accounted for more than 80% of the 3,000 trips that got canceled nationwide Tuesday, according to tracking service FlightAware.

And the chaos seemed certain to continue. The airline also scrubbed 2,500 flights for Wednesday and nearly 1,200 for Thursday as it tried to restore order to its mangled schedule.

On Monday, the Transportation Department tweeted that it would examine “Southwest’s unacceptable rate of cancellations” and whether the airline was meeting its legal obligation to help stranded customers.

"USDOT is concerned by Southwest’s unacceptable rate of cancellations and delays & reports of lack of prompt customer service. The Department will examine whether cancellations were controllable and if Southwest is complying with its customer service plan," the department tweeted Monday evening.

In an interview with NBC News' Tom Llamas, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said that Southwest Airlines needs to take care of passengers and employees.

"Where most airlines saw their performance start to improve, Southwest has actually moved in the other direction," Secretary Buttigieg said. "You got passengers who are stranded, you got passengers who can't get ahold of customer service. It's an unacceptable situation and Southwest needs to step up."

Secretary Buttigieg said at a minimum, there should be cash refunds for canceled flights and compensations for hotel stays and food purchases.

"I reached out to Secretary Buttigieg earlier today to continue the discussions we've been having with the DOT through the holiday - sharing all the things that we're doing to make things right for our customers," Jordan said.

Jordan said the tools used to recover from flight disruptions will need to see reforms.

"The tools we use to recover from disruption serve us well, 99% of the time," Jordan said. "Clearly, we need to double down on our already existing plans to upgrade systems for these extreme circumstances so that we never again face what's happening right now."

Southwest Airlines canceled more than 2,500 flights Wednesday as the Dallas-based airline tries to get back on track after winter weather. NBC 5's Ben Russell found both grateful and frustrated travelers at Love Field.
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